Do you have a question about money ethics or money etiquette? Tell MONEY about it at email@example.com, and get it answered in MONEY magazine!
“Readers to the Rescue” (below) spotlights touchy money situations that people face — for example, financial disputes with family members, awkward financial conflicts with bosses and co-workers, and problems about money that come between friends and neighbors.
Are you in the middle of a sticky financial situation? Tell us about it (anonymously) at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll crowdsource solutions from our readers, and we’ll also get you advice from a relevant expert.
Here’ a recent problem posed in “Readers to the Rescue”:
Q: My office collects donations for charity during the holidays, and everyone typically gives money. I can’t really afford to do so this year. How should I handle this situation?
A: If you are giving only to look good in the office, then you shouldn’t give, whether you can afford to or not.
—Connie Laubenthal, Box Elder, S.D.
A: If you cannot afford to donate cash this year, offer to help collect the money or distribute it to the charities involved. Your time is as valuable as cash.
—Mark R. Lindon, Longmont, Colo.
A: Try this: “The budget’s really tight this year, so I’ll have to pass. Hopefully next year will be better.” This works if you’ve actually given in previous years and have some credibility. But some offices like to brag that 100% of the department participated, so there might be more pressure to give a token amount.
—Richard Key, Dothan, Ala.
A: If you are a higher-up at the office, such as a manager, try giving at least a nominal amount. Otherwise, employees will think, “Why didn’t you contribute? If I can afford to give, why can’t you?” Morale will go down.
—Liz Yang, Cliffside Park, N.J.
A: You shouldn’t feel compelled to make a contribution that you can’t afford, nor should you have to explain why. A charitable gift must be made on your own terms and not someone else’s.
—Tim Shaw, Catonsville, Md.
The expert says…
A: A simple “Oh, no thanks—it’s not in my budget this year” is enough. Or if you don’t want to cite your finances, you could say, “I’ve already allocated my donations this year, but good luck with the collection drive.” And, really, your office shouldn’t be interrogating people about donations. It leads to awkward situations like this.
—Alison Green, consultant and workplace advice columnist at askamanager.org